2017 was full of new innovating updates to the construction industry, could 2018 be even stronger? As the year is being mapped out, the evolution in trends like offsite construction and technology reliance will continue to grow. Emerging trends like disaster resilience will be a major point of focus this year, along with state and federal policies that could create some change in the industry immensely.
Last years rush of hurricanes, heat waves, cold waves, flooding, tornadoes and wildfires will spark a push towards resiliency in the construction industry. A growing effort towards adaptive design for extreme weather and the resulting hazards, communications and first-aid resources will be experienced this next year.
The Trump administration declared November 2017 as Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience Month as a result of the many natural disasters that occurred in 2017. Architects, engineers and contractors will play a huge role in the rebuilding efforts, but the normal course of business could be obsolete.
02. Labor Shortages
As baby boomers continue to retire and the younger generation resists construction as a career the supply of skilled craft workers is becoming limited. Groups in the industry such as AGC and the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) have lobbied lawmakers for increased federal, state and local funding for trade school, high school and middle school trade education programs. In the meantime the industry is becoming increasingly more creative in their efforts to pull up some of the slack. Techniques such as prefabricated MEP racks which make connections quicker on the job site and require 50% less labor are being set in place. Also, modular construction in the hotel and multifamily sphere is extremely needed in the case of a smaller workforce. Offsite construction can observe up to 60% of a projects labor requirements making this technique very sought after in the upcoming year.
03. Offsite construction
Offsite construction and investment has been a rising trend for most of 2017. As offsite startups raise millions in funding so do the number of U.S. contractors partnering with prefab companies in their operations. As other industries have excelled with the use of offsite, investment money is now turning towards the construction industry. Investment is not the only thing driving this new trend, increasing pressure from the supply-side challenges have increased the need to bring offsite into the mainstream.
Until now, many suppliers were not building their operations with offsite in mind. With growth and excitement in mind, a lot of these suppliers like Tremco have been developing lines to help streamline workflow operations.
04. Investment for public transportation
Former transportation secretary under President Barack Obama, Anthony R. Foxx said the focus now is on integrating existing infrastructure because end-to-end systems already are in place. “We can’t look at modes of transportation as separate an distinct anymore,” he said. “It’s all one whole.”
Nashville, TN’s has a $5.2 billion infrastructure and transit plan which will be voted on in May. This is a clear example of huge investment moving towards transportation. While Nashville’s proposed plan is among the largest, this is only one example of transportation projects underway around the country.
Traditional rail and bus systems are not the only focus in alternative transportation. Higher tech options like high-speed maglev trains and hyper loop systems have been okayed in Maryland and California.
05. Technology and automation
“Instead of worrying about automation taking our jobs, let’s have a conversation about where automation can take us.” Autodesk CEO Andrew Anagnost stated. 3-D printing and smart machines has become a huge asset not only to the growth of the industry, but also to the safety of workers on jobs that are traditionally dangerous.
Construction tech earned the distinction as Trend of the Year in the 2017 Construction Dive Awards, and is only looking to grow bigger, quicker.
06. New policy regulation
President Donal Trump’s tax overhaul was approved by House and Senate at the end of 2017. Although the overhaul is not construction-specific, it will undoubtedly effect business as a whole. Federal policies are not the only thing effecting the industry. Cities, States and agencies are passing regulations as well. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed Intro 1447 that will require construction workers to pass 40 hours of safety training. In California, Governor Jerry Brown signed a law forcing direct contractors on private construction projects to be financially responsible for any wages, fringe benefits and union contributions left unpaid by subcontractors and their sub-tiers. Also, a total of 1,200 older concrete buildings that fall under a new ordinance will have to go through the seismic retrofit program in Los Angeles.
The infrastructure bill has the potential to put $1 trillion into the pipeline which may be disclosed later this month. A huge opportunity for many companies engaged in large acquisitions.
07. Giant companies expanding spaces
2017 has been full of hype around Google, Apple and the new North American Amazon Headquarters. 2018 will likely have a similar tone especially with software mogul Microsoft kicking off their multi-billion-dollar redevelopment.
As more companies plan to build out their facilities to meet the needs of their operations, many other construction opportunities will appear like data center construction to contain the magnitude of server information.
Only half way through 2017, data center investment had already doubled from 2016. If the market maintains its current pace, investment could exceed the combined total of the past three years.
08. AR/VR, wearables and drones
One area the construction industry really struggles in is safety and efficiency. Wearables and augmented reality will most likely infiltrate the industry to help out in these areas. There is no doubt that the younger generation is spearheading this movement which will be great for recruiting younger workers into a field that is struggling due to labor shortage. This is an exciting time to be in the industry, many people coming out of school have no idea the construction industry is full of tech. While wearables will help the increased fatality rate, contractors are looking to drones to survey sites and improve upon worker safety as well.